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Tolkien Would Not Have Been Happy With Galadriel's Behavior Toward The Orcs In The Rings Of Power

It's no secret that Morfydd Clark's version of Galadriel in "The Rings of Power" is a bit different than what viewers are used to seeing on the silver screen. Up until this point, popular opinion of the cinematic representation of the Lady of Lorien has been primarily shaped by the talented Cate Blanchett. She portrayed a calm, collected Elven leader who admittedly still had a tempest within her at times, but by that point in her life, knew how to keep it under control.

Clark's version of Galadriel is set much earlier in the Elf-maiden's history. She's still old by mortal standards, but there's a case to be made (based on J.R.R. Tolkien's own dating for Elvish maturity found in "The Nature of Middle-earth" book) that she should be more impetuous and stubborn. Even so, there have been points in Season 1 of "The Rings of Power" when Galadriel's brazen bluster has bordered on bullying, drawing harsh criticism from her foes — both in-story and in the audience.

One point, in particular, during the sixth episode, sees the Commander of the Northern Armies strong-arm Adar into capitulation by threatening to bring his Orcish followers into the sunlight. The skin-sizzling potential of this move finally pushes Adar (who views his Orcs as his children) to spill the beans and give Galadriel the information she wants. But is this unrepentant willingness to use torture as a means to an end something that Galadriel would have done in the source material? Perhaps the better question is, was Tolkien okay with tormenting even the Orcs in this brutish manner? We dug into the text, and there's one spot, in particular, that is as damning of Galadriel's behavior as it gets.

Tolkien had some strong thoughts about how to treat captives — even Orcs

J.R.R. Tolkien spent a lot of time figuring out an origin story for his Orcs. He waffled between making them puppets of evil, animalistic beings, and twisted Elves and Men who had souls all their own. That last idea of Orcs originating from Elves or Men tends to be the most likely option. In a late-in-life essay found in the book "Morgoth's Ring," Tolkien follows this line of reasoning. He uses it to explain how Orcs were to be treated when captured on the battlefield, saying, "the Wise in the Elder Days taught always that the Orcs were not 'made' by Melkor, and therefore were not in their origin evil. They might have become irredeemable (at least by the Elves and Men), but they remained within the Law. That is, that though of necessity, being the fingers of the hand of Morgoth, they must be fought with the utmost severity, they must not be dealt with in their own terms of cruelty and treachery."

At this point, the text specifically addresses those who are captured, adding that "Captives must not be tormented, not even to discover information for the [defense] of the homes of Elves and Men. If any Orcs surrendered and asked for mercy, they must be granted it, even at a cost." There it is, folks. Tolkien himself deliberately condemned the idea of Elves torturing Orcs to get what they needed — and yet, it's something that Galadriel casually and callously does in "The Rings of Power."

The Law isn't always followed in war

To be fair to Galadriel, it needs to be pointed out that the quotes above are followed by the line, "This was the teaching of the Wise, though in the horror of the War it was not always heeded." So, even J.R.R. Tolkien admitted that it was a preferable ideal rather than a regular occurrence. And yet, we're talking about Galadriel, one of the greatest and wisest of Elven leaders in Tolkien's world. Are we really supposed to believe that, at this point in her life, she's so misled by her one-track revenge story that she's willing to casually, almost angrily torture Orcs in cold blood?

If that's the case, there must be some development planned for her character's future as the show continues to play out. When "The Rings of Power" started, it was pretty clear that we would see a younger, more immature Galadriel who was thousands of years away from her more tempered and experienced self during "The Lord of the Rings." And yet, the sight of a Galadriel willing to use unchecked violence and even torture to get her way is a bit of a surprise. Here's hoping the writers can still take what we've seen so far and develop it into the character that we already know and love in Tolkien's Third Age books.